New Milford historical society looks to move one-room schoolhouse
NEW MILFORD — School might be out for the summer, but the New Milford Historical Society & Museum is thinking about schoolhouses.
In particular, the former Hill and Plain School.
Some work has been done on the schoolhouse and property in recent years, including the installation of a new roof, a project completed through an anonymous donation.
The goal of the campaign is to the move the schoolhouse to museum property at 6 Aspetuck Ave.
It would be situated near two other structures — a bank building and the Boardman Store — that were moved from other locations to the museum property over the years.
“It’s going to take a lot of fundraising,” said museum curator Lisa Roush.
“For us, we can take care of it. We could have school groups come, make it part of our campus,” she said.
The museum has the support of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation, and representatives from the state trust for historic preservation have surveyed whether the building can be moved.
The project is estimated to cost between $125,000 and $200,000.
The school, built in 1843 and in use until 1940, is one of three one-room schoolhouses in town. The others are in Gaylordsville and Northville.
The New Milford Historical Society only oversees the Hill and Plain School.
Ruth M. Sullivan donated the Hill & Plain schoolhouse property to the New Milford Historical Society in 1985. The deed stipulated the building be used for educational purposes and remain at its present location.
However, the museum has not been able to do much with the schoolhouse since the 1990s because of that stipulation, lack of adequate museum staff to conduct tours there and a lack of adequate parking at the site.
The museum only offered a few occasional programs with former museum board member Bob Coppola in the 1990s.
Kretchko said local attorney Barbara Dratch went before a Connecticut judge earlier this year and asked that the stipulations be lifted, allowing for the building to be relocated, so the museum could better use the building for its intended purposes.
The judge ruled in favor of lifting the stipulations and requested that the museum place a plaque at the site should the building be moved to another location, and commit to never sell the one-acre property.
Joe Cats, historical society president, said the foundation of the school building would probably be left intact and a garden might be planted at the site, along with the plaque.
“Mrs. Sullivan’s intentions would be more fulfilled (with the building moved) because (we) couldn’t have educational programs there,” Kretchko said, adding if the building is on museum property, educational offerings could be held in the schoolhouse.
Cats said moving the building is “the best way to take care of it and use it for the town, the center of town.”
The school was used until 1940 when its students were sent to the Lanesville district one-room schoolhouse, which remained in use for several more years, according to the historical society.
The Hill and Plain school was heated by a potbelly stove, with wood supplied by nearby farmers in milder months, and coal in the winter, according to historical society records.
One teacher taught all of the grades, sometimes spanning from preschool through eighth grade.
Robin Stack, who attended the Hill and Plain school from 1935 to 1940, recalled in 1995 that there were only 16 students total. He said four of them were in eighth grade.